On the brink of reaching the pinnacle of his film career for his latest theatrical masterpiece; Director Charlie Buckwald suddenly disappears. Taking all of the footage and leaving virtually no trace of his existence. Soon to follow are the sudden deaths of his film crew and pieces of evidence that all point to one incident on set. Intrigued by the strange coincidences, documentarian Jack Humphreys decides to investigate the circumstances that surround both Charlie and the untimely events. What he unearths, however is far more sinister than he would be ready for.
When a film spells the name of one of it’s stars wrong, it doesn’t bode well does it? Take for example Auteur the latest film from G. Cameron Romero, son of George. Yes, THAT George. The one with the zombies. Anyway, Tom Sizemore, who plays a rather convincing sweaty, twitchy version of himself in Auteur, is credited as ‘Tom Seizemore’. Admittedly, it is a very minor thing. And yes, I appreciate that even the biggest blockbuster isn’t free from goofs. There’s websites dedicated to that very fact. However, in the case of Auteur, it’s just one of many issues that plague the film which suggest a total lack of interest in the final product.
B.J. Hendricks (The Screening) plays filmmaker Jack Humphreys. Jack is the first to admit that he’s a small fish in a big pond, having made several films that have yet to see the light of day. Seizing upon an opportunity to make a name for himself, Jack documents the life and disappearance of Charlie Buckwald, played by Ian Hutton (Seahorses). Charlie, as the film goes to great pains to point out, was one the greatest genre directors of our time. His last project – a horror film involving demons and possession – would have redefined horror as we know it. And then he disappeared, taking the finished product with him. On top of that, people connected with the project have died in mysterious circumstances.
Largely presented as documentary – a fauxmentary if you will – flashes of The Last Broadcast and In The Mouth Of Madness are present as Jack wanders the streets of LA interviewing Charlie’s cast and crew, piecing together a vague notion of what made the auteur hightail it out of show business. But then, for reasons known only to Romero and the three credited writers, Auteur begins to flip flop between Jack’s film – the one we’re watching – and ‘flashbacks’ to Charlie’s time on set whilst filming his epic horror which are separate from the documentary. Like The Fourth Kind, which tried a similar tactic with its c**ktail of staged and ‘real’ footage, it becomes jarring and severely disrupts the flow of the narrative. When Charlie starts narrating his own flashbacks, it’s game over for any pretense that we are watching a real documentary.
When the true nature of Charlie’s disappearance is revealed, it’s laughably unbelievable. Not because of what happens – this is a horror film, we can suspend disbelief – but because of the execution that defies logic from every conceivable angle. Without wanting to give the game away, we’re expected to believe that everything that happened was done without the full knowledge of Charlie’s cast, crew and, let’s be honest, production company. Auteur mocks logic, locking it in the lockers when the principal isn’t looking. It’ll even take on reasoning if it tries to intervene.
In addition, performances are weak at best. Hendricks, whose purpose is to hold the audience’s hand throughout, looks like a rabbit caught between the headlights of an oncoming car, never seeming to know what he’s supposed to be doing from one scene to the next. Primarily this is down to the character of Jack who fluctuates from grandiose a-hole to humbled director depending on what the script says he is. There is no fluidity in the characterization. Things don’t get much better when Charlie is quickly – like really quickly – tracked down.
Hutton fails to convince as the troubled filmmaker hiding a dark secret, trading in subtlety for a cavalcade of off-the-shelf nervous tics and twitchy eyes. Kate Rivers (Madeline Merritt) as the source of all of Charlie’s misgivings is equally a buffet of histrionics. Like Jack, Charlie and Kate suffer from poor development which leads to poor performances. To rest my thoughts upon a cliché, how is an actor supposed to behave if they don’t know their motivation.
The really frustrating thing is Auteur has an interesting premise that could have made full use of found footage/documentary approach. However, the general feeling I got throughout is that no one really cared enough to get this across the line. And this all from a man who will be helming a Living Dead prequel. Be afraid. Be very afraid.